The Smurfs are Coming to Chengdu

After a 20 year haitus, The Smurfs are merrily singing their way to Chengdu in the form of a new amusement park. This is completely bizarre. But admittedly pretty awesome for me since I grew up in the 1980’s watching The Smurfs when they were a highlight of Saturday morning cartoons .

In a few years time, Chengdu could be known for hotpot, beautiful women, and bringing The Smurfs back from out of the blue.

The Details

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Chengdu development group called Teda Sino-Europe Construction is cooperating with the corporate masters of the Smurfs-brand (IMPS) to bring the little blue guys to town. With an investment of 20 million yuan (almost $3 million), the plan is to attract even more tourists to Chengdu and revitalize the Smurfs brand. Judging by the tepid response to the first Smurfs-themed park opened in France in 1989 (when the Smurfs were a household name), it won’t be an easy task. That park lasted two years before closing down due to poor attendance.

China has a notable track record with resuscitating and reinventing Western brands though, so it might not be as long a shot as it seems (Pepsi and Playboy come to mind as two brands which have successfully emerged as repurposed retail brands in China).

Pepsi shoes
In recent years, Pepsi has become one of the most well known athletic shoe brands in China.

Unfortunately, we’re in for a bit of a wait: it could be 3-5 years before the official Smurfs Theme Park greets its first visitors.

Why The Smurfs in China?

Could there an agenda involved with resurrecting this all-but-dead cartoon series? The WSJ says:

Probably not politically-motivated

If this were a few decades ago, the answer might be politics. After all, in certain circles, it is believed that the Smurfs were a Communist plot. What better fit than Maoist China would there for a beings who wear the same clothing, live in a cooperative, and contentedly work for a common goal under the authoritarian leadership of a man whose white beard bears a striking resemblance to that of Karl Marx.

These days, the more likely answer is commerce. Since their 50th anniversary in 2008, the Smurfs have been singing their way back into the markets, and Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation plan to release a hybrid live-action, animated Smurf movie next year, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry. Toy manufacturer Jakks Pacific Inc. is selling plush Smurf toys and DVDs. A Smurfette line of lipsticks and eye shadows went on sale last year at cosmetic retailer Sephora.

Listen to the Smurfs Theme Song on Youtube

About the Smurfs

The Smurfs emerged in 1958 as the brain-child of Brussels-born cartoonist Pierre Culliford, more commonly known as “Peyo.” Their immediate popularity resulted in a regular cartoon strip for European audiences in 1959 and an animated movie in 1975. After 1981, when U.S.-production company Hanna-Barbera created the Emmy-winning cartoon, the Smurfs earned their status as global icons. NBC ran the series until 1989, pulling in 42% of Saturday morning TV audiences, according to Time Magazine.

Links: WSJ, Gadling, Vagabonding

6 thoughts on “The Smurfs are Coming to Chengdu”

  1. That article on the ideological narrative behind the Smurfs is really interesting. Logically it makes a lot of sense but I have a hard time seeing Smurfs as anything but bouncy innocent creatures of Saturday morning.

    • Right, I read that article and found it pretty thought provoking also. They live in a co-op, they dress the same, act the same (are essential cute lemmings), share everything, etc. I wonder to what level this is observed by Chinese people.

    • It does seem really strange to build an amusement park in a country where basically no one even knows what this is about.

      It’s like building a monument to some obscure Japanese manga character from the 1970’s in Idaho.

      Thing is, I think American travelers of my generation (born in the early 1980’s) will go out of their way to check this out if they’re in the region. It’s very quirky and nostalgic and it reinforces the notion that China is a crazy and bizarre place filled with surprises.

  2. La la la la la la
    LA la la la la
    La la la la la la
    LA la la la

    just smurfin this song as i smurf down the street thinkin smurfy thoughts about the people i meet …


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